Pop culture has redefined the terms of art as far as the mainstream is concerned - the "people's artist" has become something of a centralised theme, with the majority of the audience recognising this as the height of art. What is not widely recognised is how that came to be.
Beginning with Andy Warhol, a man who was trained as a commercial artist and designer, who reinvented himself as a blank canvas, without identity, so that others could write their own interpretations of who he was in their own minds and reviews. The idea was that the more of himself that he removed from the art, the more he was celebrated for being an amazing artist, because that's who people wanted him to be. They created their own icon, because he allowed them to dictate who he was as an artist.
Banksy, another pop culture artist, who is for the most part completely anonymous to the people, and also a commercial artist, is another individual who allows the audience to design their own art hero. Without his identity getting in the way, the people decide who he is as an artist. His own life as a person is completely without definition.
The idea that an artist should be without any identity but the one that the masses give them is the new artform.
I've actually experienced this phenomenon on a number of levels in my own career, with people who have no awareness of the difference between genres in art - that they can tell me who I am, what my artistic process is, what I feel when I work, that they can imagine me into being. It's a very dislocating experience, given that I'm a classically trained artist, and identity of the artist was something that was drilled into me with passion and consistency from the first art class.
No one likes to be told who they are. But in art, the ego is massive enough to cope with the criticisms, rejections, hate, negativity and constant exposure - and it is from the ego that the artistic process develops. At that point, people are shouting at a mountain.
I myself live within other contradictions in the art life - I have no arts degree, I studied and learned with masters in their studios and homes. I am no street artist - I don't have the desire for my art to be consumed, as much as I desire it to be loved. Tattoos, automobile art, painting under bridges - none of this is part of my purpose as an artist. I was raised by the upper class, trained to be the best in class, to work for an elite audience. Yet I dreamed of living in obscure places, drinking coffee in cafes, meeting people by chance, that every event would lead to a story; my personal politics and philosophies are engaged in the esoteric, I am a mystic that believes in scientific principle, and for all my engagement in the profound, my imagery continues to explore the base principle of female life - the erotic, the fantastic, and the internal journey.
I don't work with galleries, for they are, in my mind, a part of the dis-integration of the fine arts world, and I only work with genuinely interested collectors, who prefer to remain private in their interest. Yet I have been said to be influential in the art market for my views in art, the artistic process and the management of an art life. I am not underground - I hold too much presence with other influential people in the global market, yet I am niche, for the market that I engage with has particular tastes and high-end values in their investments.
I have a personal signature style, developed over years of hard work and education, and then I am offered the opportunity to draw tattoos of dolphins and cars and sailing ships, but of course they'll pay me. The price of an obscure life with a celebrated collection is that when no one knows who you are, they will try to tell you who you should be. And often as not, their ambitions were already surpassed by the time I was seventeen.
I've been a working artist for 23 years. I have no intention of returning to paths already travelled, and no desire to humbug over the debate between street level and fine art - I am not a modern artist, and I despise the notion that commercial celebration is more important than the appreciation of an individual who collects my work with fire in their heart, and uplifted with greater passion and desire in their own lives, due to my efforts. My artwork has changed lives, enhanced lives, made a difference to people's emotional journeys, and their own evolution as a human being. It has brought joy, wisdom, elevation of the soul and captured the imagination of non-artists. Would I give that up to become a celebrity? Why would I, when I am already legend.....